We mourn the passing of Llura Gund. We grieve with family, with our extended Foundation community and with all of those who encountered her luminous spirit.
Lulie, as she was affectionately known, devoted more than 20 years to The George Gund Foundation as a member of the board of trustees, much of that time as vice president. Lulie passed away on March 15. She was the wife for more than 53 years of former trustee Gordon Gund, the mother of current trustee Zachary Gund, mother-in-law of trustee Lara Gund. And, of course, her family ties extended to all of the Gunds who have served on the Foundation’s board since its beginning.
Throughout her tenure, Lulie was a smart, thoughtful, supportive, engaged, and deeply passionate trustee, wielding great influence across program areas with her trademark humor and caring. Her work at the Foundation was guided by her trust and respect for those people and agencies working to ensure dignity and justice for Cleveland’s most vulnerable citizens, particularly children and families. Her commitment to these principles extended beyond her time at the Foundation, and it informed all of her philanthropic investments. As Lulie and Gordon noted when they joined The Giving Pledge, dedicating the majority of their wealth to giving back:
“We each had parents who highly valued and lived the importance of providing the same opportunities that they had to those who were less fortunate. Their generosity with their treasure and their time has inspired us in our philanthropic involvements. Over the years we have provided meaningful financial support and, in some cases, significant volunteer time to organizations involved in healthcare, education, the environment and the arts. We have made our philanthropic investments—just as we have made our for-profit investments—in capable people who have a dedicated commitment to a sensible and compelling vision. Also, as with many of our business investments, we have invested a significant amount of our time, experience, and energy into the leadership and oversight of our most important philanthropic endeavors.”
As a trustee, Lulie was particularly devoted to the Foundation’s work in human services and education. Her support for women’s reproductive health and rights, children’s health and development, early childhood education, and the transformation of our public schools was essential in terms of guiding our Foundation’s work. Within all these interests—and others—her advocacy for high-quality early childhood stood out. Lulie supported the Foundation’s work in Invest in Children, Cuyahoga County’s high-quality early childhood program, now regarded as a national model. She supported Ohio’s Step Up To Quality initiative, now used across the state to catalyze early childhood programs receiving public funding to pursue the highest quality standards and through which Cuyahoga County now has the highest percentage of highly-rated programs in the state. And she supported Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools, which called for the expansion of high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-old children in Cleveland.
Lulie’s special interest in children prompted the Foundation to make a $1 million grant in February to create The Llura Gund Early Learning Fund at PRE4CLE, which leads the preschool expansion campaign.
“The sadness of Lulie’s passing is felt deeply by all of the Gunds and the extended Foundation family,” noted Catherine Gund, president of the Board of Trustees. “It is an especially poignant moment for me as one of our longest serving woman trustees leaves us and I begin my time as the first woman president. Lulie’s enduring hopefulness will be one of my constant guideposts.”
Notable though her record of service was, Lulie’s shining personality always made her greatest impression. With good humor and an infectious laugh, she captivated people and made them feel comfortable and welcome in any setting. Everyone felt her warmth and loved the stories she told. The deep regard that she had for people was evident in her work with the Foundation and in her every interaction.
We will always miss Lulie. Especially in these painfully uncertain times we miss her innate optimism and good cheer. But we know she will remain with us. The example of her service and the inspiration of her spirit will carry us forward.